In my sophomore year of college, we played against Johns Hopkins University for a chance to go to the Elite 8 in the D3 NCAA tournament. We had beaten the number 1 team in the nation to win our conference title and we had won our first two games in the tournament. We were on a roll and feeling good about ourselves. Against Johns Hopkins, we were playing really well. We scored 15 minutes into the second half to go up 1-0 and had another chance to score 5 minutes later that was cleared off of the line. I felt confident that we were going to win the game. With 3 minutes left in the game their big center midfielder got the ball and moved it to his right foot, he was 35 yards from goal. I lunged to the ball to block it, however, it was already past me, headed towards the goal. As I turned to see if our keeper was going to save it, my opponent had his arms in the air celebrating. 1-1. We were headed to overtime. In college soccer, you play two periods of overtime and if you don’t have a winner you go to penalty kicks. That is where we were headed next. Each team selects 5 players to take their teams shots. I was selected as number 5 for my team.
As an athlete, you dream of this. Being in a position with that responsibility. It is also the time that your weak voice and strong voice show up. When you are under that strain your past shows up. For me, there were 2 specific things that came flooding in. First, in high school, I missed my penalty shot and we lost in the state championship semi-final. That was my weak voice. Second, I was thinking of the confidence my coach had in me to take that kick. We had practiced as the playoffs went on and I had regularly placed my shots in the back of the net. Practice was not the same as the game and the pressure, but his faith helped.
So now, in this moment I was internalizing all these things, these thoughts were rushing through my brain and I had to fight the weak voice so that the strong voice could win! I had to believe I was going to score to give myself a chance. I had to be confident in myself. I went back to remember all the practice, the work that I had put in and being my best self. The training that I did when I knew that nobody else was watching and how it had prepared me for this chance. I had to visualize the many times that I had taken this shot and the result that had come from it. I needed my strong voice to win, my confident voice.
You see, we train our brains just like our bodies. So when we are in these trying moments we know how to take the path to the result that we want. If we let our brains get away with thinking of the negatives, the negative will win. In the moments of challenge, we need to go back to the work that we put in, the person that we are and how that person responds in tough situations. We need to understand that our inner voice is present every day when we work to train our minds to find the strong inner voice we help to prepare yourself for these moments. The everyday circumstances that we are faced with, and how we respond to them is what prepares us!
You may be wondering if I made the shot. I never got the chance to shoot. Our first player to shoot missed. Johns Hopkins made all 5 of their shots, and I never got a chance to shoot. I, however, was ready, I was confident and had prepared for the moment.